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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Ever wonder about those antlers?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Growing up in a rural community, I have always been surrounded by friends and family who liked to hunt. I know individuals who love to spend their vacation going out west and hunting the wilderness that isn't around Indiana.

Yet the majority of those I know spend a great deal of time hunting white-tailed deer in Indiana. That is not a surprising fact when you think that slightly more than 50,800 antlered deer were harvested in 2007. Specifically, 428 were harvested in Clay County and 734 were harvested in Owen County alone.

It was not uncommon while I was growing up to hear my friends talk about how many points their buck had. It took a while for me to understand that "points" referred to the number of points the deer had on its antlers. The antlers of deer are actually quite interesting when you set back and take the time to do a little research on how they form.

For many, they actually might not realize that deer lose their antlers every year around January or February. The antlers are often fully grown by early September. The antler tissue is one of the fastest growing tissues known to man with some antlers growing as much as one half inch per day.

You might be surprised to find out that you cannot tell a deer's age by the size of its antlers. About 25-35 percent of a buck's potential antler development is by age 2-and-a-half. Often, a buck will not begin to grow its antlers until it is about 10-months-old. Until that time, a buck fawn is generally referred to as a button buck. As the deer matures, its antlers will get larger, reaching a maximum size, and then begin to decrease in size. Therefore, the only reliable way to tell the age of a deer is by looking at its teeth, which is similar to other animals.

With all the farm fields in Indiana, white-tailed deer have excellent food sources and good nutrition. This helps with the development of antlers since nutrition and genetics are the biggest factors contributing to antler development. Often in Indiana, bucks only reach the age of 3 or 4. Therefore, if you see a big antlered deer, there is a good chance it is probably only 3- or 4-years-old. One of the reasons for not seeing older deer is because of hunting.

Hunting is a hobby of many in Indiana. At this time, deer season is coming to an end. Right now, only muzzleloader and late archery are still taking place.

Muzzleloader season lasts from Dec. 5-20, while later archery is from Dec. 5-Jan. 3.

For those interested in hunting the white-tailed deer, remember to obtain the proper licenses, follow all the rules and regulations put into effect in Indiana, do not trespass on other's property, and above all, make safety your top priority while you hunt.

The biggest surprise that I learned while doing my research for this week's column was actually about female white-tailed deer. If you weren't aware, like me, there are rare occasions where female white-tailed deer grown antlers. Female white-tailed deer develop antlers because of a hormonal imbalance. Hopefully, after reading this week's column, you have a little bit better understanding of the uniqueness of the white-tailed deer.

As always, if you have any questions pertaining to agriculture, home horticulture, or natural resources, contact your local Purdue Extension Office by calling 448-9041 in Clay County, or 829-5020 in Owen County.

If you would like to contact me directly, I can be reached at either of the two numbers listed or via e-mail at smith535@purdue.edu.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Dec. 14 -- Last Chance PARP Program, Cloverdale Community Building, 12:45-3:30 p.m. (Cost $10),

* Dec. 24 -- Office closed,

* Dec. 25 -- Office closed, and

* Dec. 31 -- Office closed.